A place for all in S'pore

Fireworks light up the Kallang skyline, rounding off a night of celebration. Many parade-goers left the National Stadium early to catch a glimpse of the outdoor pyrotechnics, which were set off from the stadium's domed roof as well as from three barg
Above: Participants with special needs practise during a rehearsal.
Fireworks light up the Kallang skyline, rounding off a night of celebration. Many parade-goers left the National Stadium early to catch a glimpse of the outdoor pyrotechnics, which were set off from the stadium's domed roof as well as from three barg
Above: The audience takes the cue from the special needs participants in song-signing to NDP favourites Home and Count On Me, Singapore.
Fireworks light up the Kallang skyline, rounding off a night of celebration. Many parade-goers left the National Stadium early to catch a glimpse of the outdoor pyrotechnics, which were set off from the stadium's domed roof as well as from three barg
Fireworks light up the Kallang skyline, rounding off a night of celebration. Many parade-goers left the National Stadium early to catch a glimpse of the outdoor pyrotechnics, which were set off from the stadium's domed roof as well as from three barges in the Kallang Basin.

No one knows what kind of society Singapore will be in 2065 on its 100th birthday, but it should have a place for the likes of Bryan Cheong.

This year's National Day Parade featured the 10-year-old in a prominent role in a live skit as one of the four grandchildren of Grandpa.

Unlike the other three, Bryan uses a wheelchair because he has cerebral palsy. He also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. When asked about his dreams, he said: "I want a special playground for kids in wheelchairs."

This segment underlined how this year's parade aimed to highlight the message of inclusivity.

For the first time, 150 special needs participants led the 55,000-strong crowd in song-signing to two popular tunes.

They came from seven voluntary welfare organisations spanning a wide spectrum of special needs, including hearing and visual disabilities and physical and intellectual disabilities.

In the "song-signing" segment, the audience was invited to follow sign language cues to Home and Count On Me, Singapore.

It was meant to be a unifying gesture that reflects the kind of society the country wants for the future - one where everyone matters and no one is left out, said the parade's executive committee.

Throughout the show, the theme of including people with disabilities in society came across strongly.

A film that envisioned what it will be like for a family living in "Sky City" - a futuristic city that embraces modernity and technology - was screened. Central to that story of Singapore's future was how children in the family befriended a child with special needs.

They took the child to a special museum where language was not a barrier and where paintings by special needs people were exhibited.

The paintings were actual artworks by special needs beneficiaries from Touch Community Services, recreated in a larger-than-life format through a performance by the Singapore Soka Association.

Mr Quek Swee Hai, 51, was one of the special needs participants who took part in the song-signing segment. He lost the use of the right side of his body after suffering a stroke in 2005.

Said Mr Quek: "At first, I did ask them if I could take part in the song-signing because I can use only my left hand. They gave the green light and I knew I had to make full use of what I can do."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2016, with the headline 'A place for all in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe